How To File For Guardianship Of A Minor Or Seek Custody Of A Child

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Sometimes situations arise in which neither of a child’s biological parents is fit to be the legal guardian of the child. In such instances, other parties may petition the courts to obtain legal guardianship of the child. The people might be grandparents of the children, other relatives, foster parents or other interested parties. People might be awarded temporary guardianship or permanent guardianship, depending upon the unique circumstances of the case and what they are filing for. Generally, the process to file for guardianship is the same in every state, but there may be a few slight differences.

<h1>Responsibilities</h1>

Before filing for legal guardianship of a child, people should understand the responsibilities that will come with it. Being the legal guardian of a child will make the guardian responsible for the child until the day that the child turns 18 years old. The guardian will be able to act as the parent of the child, but the guardian should also realize that he or she will be held accountable for the child as well. However, obtaining legal guardianship of a child is not the same as adopting one, and in most cases, the parents’ rights to the child have not been terminated.

<h1>Filing Process</h1>

Filing for legal guardianship of a child requires that people fill out the appropriate forms requesting guardianship. Such forms may be obtained at their county courthouses, usually by speaking with the clerk of court who can present them with copies. Some courthouses might charge for copies of these forms, though. When filling out the forms, people should be as thorough as possible when presenting reasons as to why the child requires a guardian. For instance, any previous court rulings that the child was abused or neglected would strengthen a potential guardian’s case when seeking custody of the child. After filling out the forms, sign them before a notary republic and file them along with whatever the county’s filing fee is (which varies from county to county). The child’s parents must be served with a copy of the petition, which people can do in person themselves, via mail or by having a police officer do it for them.

When the court date to hear the case comes around, if enough evidence is presented that the parents are unfit legal guardians of their children, then the court may rule to grant the petitioner legal guardianship. People seeking legal guardianship of a child can expect to have to undergo extensive background checks and financial, mental and other assessments to determine that they are fit to be guardians.

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